See four of the major offenders when it comes to insect management in beef cattle pastures in Florida.


Insects can be a major problem in Florida beef cattle pastures. A South Florida Beef-Forage Program article looks at the four most common when considering insect management. See them summarized below.

Top Three Pests in Insect Management


Mole Crickets. “Mole cricket damage is usually associated with bahia pastures but is occasionally seen in other forage species as well.  In Florida there are two species of mole crickets that are responsible for economic damages to forages and pastures; the tawny mole cricket and the southern mole cricket.  Usually the first sign of mole crickets that you will notice is the occurrence of tunnels near the soil surface; this burrowing will loosen the soil and can resemble tiny mole tunnels.

Extensive root feeding can lead to large areas of wilted and dead forage grasses; large populations can lead to extensive forage losses and ultimately require a pasture renovation.

There are multiple biological control methods that have proven to have some control of mole crickets. The mole cricket nematode was evaluated by the University of Florida and has been shown to have some control of late instar nymphs and adult mole crickets in Florida.  These nematodes have been produced commercially, but can sometimes be hard to find; additionally it is important that correct application methods be followed to get effective control.  In addition to nematodes there are two different parasitic flies that have been proven to parasitize mole crickets.  These wasps are established in several counties in Florida and in some areas have provided adequate control.  Chemical control methods for heavy infestations have proven to be largely ineffective.”

Spittlebugs. “Spittlebugs will feed on a wide range of forage grasses and are often found in bermudagrass, limpograss and stargrass pastures. The nymphs produce a frothy white mass that completely hides them and acts as a protectant as they feed.

Adults and nymphs damage grasses by inserting their tiny needle like mouth parts into the plant and feeding off of the plant juices.  Adult spittlebugs will inject plant toxins into the plant during this feeding process and cause streaking or stippling type symptoms.

The presence of spittlebugs can be easily confirmed by the mass of froth or spittle like material the nymphs produce for protection.  There are no known biological control agents for spittlebugs and no pesticides are currently registered for control of spittlebugs on pastures.  Applications of carbaryl insecticides for other pests sometimes will suppress an existing adult spittlebug infestation, but is ineffective on populations of nymphs because the spittle mass acts a barrier keeping the pesticide from actually reaching the young spittlebugs.  The most effective cultural control of spittlebugs would be to burn off pastures in February or March in order to kill any overwintering eggs that are laid in the heavy thatch cover.”

Armyworms. “In Florida, we have three species of armyworms that are found in forages; the southern and yellowstriped armyworms are considered occasional pest of forage grasses with the fall armyworm being the species that causes the most serious damage.

The fall armyworm will survive most winters in central and south Florida; during extremely cold winters survival may be limited to extreme south Florida.  Moths are very strong flyers and are capable of re-infesting north Florida by early spring.  There are several hundred wild and cultivated plants that make suitable host for the fall armyworm including important crops such as corn, cotton and peanuts among others.  Damage is caused by the feeding of the armyworm larvae.“

Striped Grass Loopers. “Striped grass looper larvae are frequently found in mixed populations with fall armyworm larvae.  They prefer bermudagrass and stargrass but in high populations can cause economic damage to most species of grass.”

Continual monitoring for larval pests is the best way to stop them early.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.


Photo courtesy of Jacqueline McNally.